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Sweden: On the "Millennium Trilogy" trail

A Stockholm walking tour visits the sites of Stieg Larsson's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

Stockholm walking tour
Tour guide Alexander Cavalieratos points out the sights of Sodermalm, a hilly island in southern Stockholm and a backdrop for Stieg Larsson’s crime novels. (Frank Radosevich/GlobalPost)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Tourists in Stockholm have been flocking recently to a walking tour that promises some of the city’s better-known sights: tidy cobblestone streets, bustling coffee-scented cafes, hilltop views of the capital’s old quarter — and the corner 7-Eleven stocked with microwavable pizzas.

That last stop, ignored or overlooked by most of Stockholm, is of particular importance.

The nondescript convenience store at the corner of Gotgatan and Svartensgatan plays a part in the fictional life of the tattooed computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, star of Stieg Larsson’s internationally acclaimed "Millennium Trilogy."

The crime novels have sold millions of copies both in Europe and the United States, making Salander and her partner, investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist, as recognizable as classic Swedish children’s book character Pippi Longstocking (the author of those books, Astrid Lindgren, has a whole museum devoted to her in the Swedish capital). For now, Stieg Larsson, whose books were first published five years ago, just has tours.

“We would have still come here if it weren’t for the books but they certainly enhanced the trip,” said American tourist John Kennedy, who was in town to watch a U.S. professional hockey game.

“I loved it,” he said of the Millennium Trilogy tour offered by the Stockholm City Museum.

The excursion weaves together the plots of the three novels, the history of Stockholm and the life of Larsson, who drew heavily from his surroundings and days on Sodermalm.

The narrow streets and steep hills of the southern island provide a key backdrop for the crime novels. It is also where Larsson lived. Sodermalm, once home to working-class neighborhoods of Stockholm, has gentrified in recent years to include trendy bars and fashionable shops.

“This was a poor separate city filled with workers,” said tour guide Alexander Cavalieratos, who has led 50 or so tours about the books. “But nowadays this is, of course, part of the central city.”

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Cavalieratos had to turn away roughly a dozen sightseers wanting to join the tour after tickets sold out. He offered to take on three extra tourists, forcing them to draw lots out of a tourist's baseball hat for the spots.

Cavalieratos said the attendance of tourists of different nationalities had spiked whenever the third book in the trilogy was translated into a new language.

Along the way, Cavalieratos pointed out the cafe where both Larsson and his character Blomkvist worked and sipped coffee, where both of the men’s offices were located (one real and the other fictional) and where Blomkvist is said to be living, the attic apartment at 1 Bellmansgatan.

“The really funny thing is there is a Mikael Blomkvist living at number 1 Bellmansgatan. It’s kind of strange,” he said in a low voice to surprised giggles from the crowd.